Samhain Publishing, $6.50, ISBN 978-1-61923-066-8
Contemporary Romance, 2015
Hello. Do you like reading short sentences? Many short sentences? I do mean “many”. Because the author loves to write short sentences. This is a very long book, but it is full of short sentences. There is probably a profound symbolism behind the whole thing. Just like how Zach O’Malley sometimes see profundity in banal things.
I blinked at the chunk of siding I’d just painted. Blinked again.
Damn. Sometimes white was really, really white. Burn-your-retinas white.
Clouds shifted overhead and the sun shot a blast of light across rows of wet clapboards. Tiny rainbows burst from the glossy paint, turning the whole damn world into a ginormous jumble of color.
Wow. So beautiful.
I raised my hand and pressed my fingertips to the siding, halfway expecting my skin to become one with layers of red, orange, yellow, blue. A drop of sweat slipped into the corner of my eye, bathing my already messed-up eyeball in saline. Ow. Yeah. Time for a break.
God, I hope that guy is really, really hot, or else the world will have little use for him.
Burping a hangover-y, Powerade-flavored sigh, I settled my butt on the grass in front of the thick-trunked maple. I rested my head on the rough bark, stretched my legs and toed off my Vans.
For some reason, reading that sentence makes me want to scratch my butt.
Kirby was on his hands and knees facing away from me. He rocked forward, reloaded the brush with paint and then worked the tip of the brush into the final series of crevasses adjacent to the trim. His glutes flexed under his cutoffs as he repeated the process. Flex, reach, un-flex, dip, flex… My gaze traveled over his bare legs and feet. As usual, his shoes—an old pair of knock-off Converse with more holes than canvas—had been abandoned in the grass. Shapeless and limp without Kirby’s toes to give them life.
There is absolutely no follow-up to the observation of those shapeless, limp shoes. The author just loves to describe everything in detail.
Kirby Kurtcehajic, the owner of those flexing glutes and shapeless shoes – that is so my band name – doesn’t like it when Zach offers him a sip of the Powerade.
“You think I got germs or something?” I teased.
“You do got germs, Zachary. They’d probably taste pretty good too.” The corner of his mouth crinkled. “I just don’t drink blue shit.”
Basically, Zach and Kirby are attracted to one another, but Kirby has plenty of issues that may require Zach to dabble in a bit of Prince Charming magic to save the day. There is an actually pleasant, probably enjoyable love story in there that almost captured the magic of all those 1980’s teen romantic comedies from John Hughes and the like. Almost, that is, because the author has a severe case of over-describing everything while at the same using short, terse sentences. The end result is a story is a painful slough to wade through.
Sometimes, the author gets everything right, such as a scene where Zach gives Kirby a massage. His thoughts on Kirby’s body are almost erotic, poetic. And then the author ruins the magic with stuff like this.
That thing—that big-as-hell something inside me—it was coiling and tightening, sucking every bit of heat from every single cell, running up my limbs, down my spine, then narrowing into a cylinder of fire that was headed straight outta my dick—
Anyway, Kirby is quite an adorable guy and the whole “let’s smoke a toke and see where life takes us” philosophy of the main characters has its charms. The author’s narrative style is cracked as hell, however, and half the time I don’t know whether to laugh or cringe at the whole thing. But after a while, I start to get used to the whole Chuck-Wendig-on-steroids style of writing and I begin to appreciate, even adore, some of the scenes here. Zach’s rambling nonsense starts to make sense in a frightening “Oh my god, am I on drugs?” way, and there are some romantic moments that are ingeniously crafted to make me all melted up inside.
At the end of the day, I don’t know how to rate this book. Unmasking Zach is written in a stream-of-consciousness style that will not appeal to everyone, but if you stay with it, it may eventually make you start to see rainbow colors and happy dancing rabbits in the clouds or something like that. This book is like a drug – you may not like it at first, but after a while, you may feel very… happy. I can’t vouch for the long-term side effects, though, so approach this one with caution.